Eight Thoughts for New Parents

Over the last two weeks, at least three longtime readers of The Simple Dollar plus a close friend of our family had new babies enter their life. Congratulations are in order.

The addition of a baby to anyone’s life is a major change, to put it lightly. Your life changes in countless little ways because of this new responsibility – often in ways you do not expect. Your expenses change as well – you spend more on some things and less on others.

Here are eight little thoughts/pieces of advice for all of you new parents out there.

The biggest thing your child needs is your time.
If you’re spending every free moment obsessing over the perfect crib, the perfect bottles, and so on, stop. Just stop. The one thing your child needs more than anything else is your time.

Right now, your baby needs to be held. (S)he needs to hear your voice. (S)he needs to be fed regularly and have sanitary diaper changes. Read your child some simple books. Let the child take some naps in your arms. Look directly at the child when they’re awake and talk to them about anything.

Later, they’ll need your time in different ways. You’ll be a teacher, a playmate, a nurse, and a nanny. All of these roles are important. All of these roles take time.

How do you find that time? The biggest change will be in your social life. It’s now much harder (nearly impossible in some cases) to just go out on the town for a good time. For us, social occasions moved from being an ordinary routine to being a treat. This not only freed up a lot of hours, it also saved us a lot of money.

The introduction of a child is a perfect time for other changes.
Your life is going through dramatic change right now, with many, many aspects of your normal routine thrown out of whack. If you’re looking to adopt other changes in your life, right now is a perfect time to start.

For us, the birth of our first child was a call for change. Over the first year of our son’s life, we started a huge financial turnaround. We abandoned several expensive hobbies, got our finances in order, and I gave my dream of writing for a living a sustained, serious shot.

The constant through all of this change was our family – the three of us. Now that you have the same center in your life, take advantage of all of the other waves and make the changes you want to make.

It’s not as expensive as you think it’s going to be.
When many people think about the financial impact that a baby will have in their life, they think mostly in terms of addition. Day care. More food. Baby supplies. Clothes. Ouch.

When you actually have the child, though, you begin to find that there are a lot of subtractions as well. You spend less on your own food because you find it’s easier to make a meal at home than it is to bundle up the kid and go out. You spend less on gas because you don’t go out and about every day. You spend less on hobbies and entertainment because, quite frankly, you don’t have as much time for them.

Don’t panic. The new expenses won’t be as drastic as you think they’ll be. Let your child’s needs (material and otherwise) lead the way a bit and you’ll find that things will fall into place.

Reusable supplies trump disposable supplies.
Of course, this does assume you have a washing machine and a dryer at home. Given that, though, cloth diapers, cloth wipes, and cloth bibs will save you quite a bit of money over the infant and toddler years, plus you can “yard sale” some of them at the end.

The cloth diapering is often a surprise for people. Can that really save money? The Simple Dollar has broken it down before and found that cloth diapering is significantly cheaper for just one child and is a huge savings (well into four figures) for two children.

However, cloth wipes are easier to implement. Just get a pile of cheap, soft cloths and a spray bottle of water and you’ll find that not only do the cloth wipes do a great job, you can toss them right in the wash with pretty much anything else and they come out fine.

Take a look at reusable options. You’ll find that they steadily save you money.

Make time for just your spouse.
Once a child arrives, the dynamics of your marriage will change. Quite simply, you’ll have less time to spend together and less time to communicate with one another.

Make time. Set aside periods (like nap times) where the two of you simply do some things together without the baby.

I have personally witnessed multiple relationships falter and crash because the parents failed to make time for each other when the child arrives. Not only can that be emotionally messy, it can be very financially costly, too.

Eat healthier.
The first six months with a baby will result in a lot of sleep-interrupted nights for all adults involved. This will inevitably reduce your energy level during the day when you need to be performing well at work or at being a good parent or spouse.

One great way to counteract the loss of energy is to improve your energy levels via an improved diet. To put it simply, make better dietary choices. Eat home-prepared meals. Choose fruits as your snacks instead of sweets. Add more vegetables to your meals.

Making such moves will boost your natural energy level a bit, likely cause you to drop a few pounds, and make it easier for you to juggle both your familial needs and your professional needs.

Make an extra effort to find and build relationships with other new parents.
The best friend a new parent can have is another new parent, one who is going through the same experiences and can share many of the same resources.

Look around your social network for people who have recently had children and make an effort to get to know them. Invite them and their child over for a meal and see if you hit it off. If you do, that relationship will help you time and time again.

Another family with a young baby provides opportunities for low-cost socialization. It provides sympathetic ears. It provides supplies and ideas you may have never considered. It can also provide free babysitting if you’re willing to do exchanges with them. All of these can be a great benefit to you during your child’s earliest years.

Reach out to your parents as well.
A final tip: the birth of your own child is a great time to reach out to your own parents. Much as with reaching out to others with babies, your parents can be an invaluable resource for making this period go smoother.

More importantly, grandparents can play a vital role in the life of a young child. It is good for that child to experience a healthy relationship with their grandparents, and vice versa.

Do what you can to patch over any rough spots in your relationships with your parents and open up the doors as widely as you can to their involvement with your children. This is a win-win-win situation – don’t let it slip by.